Thompson and McKinney lock down safety spots


CW/ Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

Coming into the season, Alabama’s defense was extremely inexperienced. The spots that had the least starting experience were the two safety spots. Deionte Thompson and Xavier McKinney had just two starts between them, both of which were from Thompson in playoff games last year.

Now after three games under their belt, Thompson and McKinney have played big roles in the defense, not just in the secondary.

“I think both those guys have played well this year for us,” coach Nick Saban said. “I think they’re both playing with a lot of confidence. I think they have better knowledge and understanding. They’ve now gained a little bit of experience in three games. I’m pleased with the progress that they’ve made, and they’ve got to continue to build on that.”

Thompson leads the team in tackles (16) and interceptions (two).

“He has great range in the back end,” Saban said after the win over Ole Miss. “He’s very instinctive. Football is really important to him. He does a great job of preparing every week. Really proud of the progress he’s made as a player throughout his career here.”

McKinney has been one of the sophomores playing a key role for the Crimson Tide. He has 12 tackles, which is tied for third on the team, a tackle for loss and an interception, which he returned 30 yards for a touchdown against Ole Miss.

“He has matured a lot,” Thompson said. “X is a guy that is very important to our secondary. He’s a leader. He gets the calls across the board to everybody. Me and him do a good job communicating, and I’m proud of the progress that he’s making.”

Communication is extremely important in all parts of football, but most crucial in the secondary. Now in his redshirt junior season, Thompson is one of the key communicators on defense. He makes sure that he and McKinney are working well together in the back line.  

“Me and DT, we always communicate,” McKinney said. “We always talk to each other about being on the same page and making everybody else is on the same page. I feel like it’s getting better each and every week. We’re trying to make that a big emphasis on communicating more and better so the defense can be as a unit and we can make sure everybody is on the same page.”

Alabama’s secondary is usually thought of as the defense’s weak link, but none more than this year. Three games into the season, the secondary has been stout just like in years past.

Teams are completing just 43.8 percent of their passes and have thrown five interceptions against the Crimson Tide. Defensive backs have also broken up 23 passes this season.

“We like winning. We’re just focused on winning and getting better as a team. They make us better. We make them better, so that’s kinda what we do in practice, and we don’t too much worry about what everybody else is saying on who is leading, if the offense is leading or the defense is leading. We don’t care about that.”

The secondary also has three interceptions returned for a touchdown this year, which is tied for the most in the country.

“It’s really exciting when anybody gets a pick-six. I feel like it helps the team as far as when we’re trying to get momentum in the game, and it helps us build as a team and get better as a team.”